There is Nothing "High-Res" About Apple's iTunes

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by MacCurry, May 18, 2007.

  1. MacCurry macrumors 6502

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    #1
    http://www.avrev.com/news/0407/19.appleemi052.shtml

    Apple and major music label EMI announced a deal to sell slightly more expensive and slightly higher resolution downloads that are DRM free last week {in April 2007}. At $1.29 the new downloads will not have the typical encryption that only allows music bought on Apple’s iTunes Music Store to be played on an Apple iPod. These new music files will be compatible on nearly every other MP3 player and like a Compact Disc will be DRM (digital rights management) free as Apple founder, Steven Jobs, called for in a recent open letter to the music business.

    The problem is the fact that in their press release dated April 2, 2007 Apple states that their 256 kbps AAC encoding results in audio quality that is “indistinguishable from the original recording.” Suggesting to consumers that 256 kbps downloads are anything close to high-resolution music is truly misleading and highly damaging to the audio business. These are stereo tracks with audio that is audibly worse than the standard set by the Compact Disc (1,411.2 kbps) format launched 25 years ago. Has anyone working with music at Apple heard of Moore’s Law? Products, software and overall applications are supposed to double in speed ever 18 months yet they are selling audio at less than 1982 standards as high-resolution? Anyone who has heard the audio goodness of a high-res format like DVD-Audio (up to 4,608 kbps – uncompressed PCM stereo) knows that Apple is selling the music buying public a bill of goods. While the iPod is without question the most successful audio format or component since the CD, it has also single handedly taken the art from making music – specifically the long standing practice of providing the highest fidelity to consumer formats. Now with downloads being dominated by iTunes and being played back on horrible, stock headphones for an iPod – why should people care about audio quality in stereo let alone music in high-resolution surround?

    At this level, Apple – a company known for unabashedly selling $1,799 video monitors when for $299 you can buy a pretty big non-Apple LCD brand monitor – is killing the high-end audio business with its pushing of truly low-resolution audio. Why does an iPod carrying music lover need new speakers, a new amp or new preamp when the best audio they can hope for is less-than-CD quality music? Why should they buy a 7.1 surround system when Apple’s supposedly “high-resolution” Apple TV doesn’t output HD video or music/movie soundtracks in anything other than stereo?

    As a long time Apple supporter, the guy who cuts the checks for $3,500 G5 Mac workstations for every AVRev.com desk – I must say I am truly disappointed with the way that Apple has picked the lowest lying fruit as the way they make their multi-billion-dollar mark in the music business. I expect Apple to have worked with an audio partner (not stick with a not-invented-here mentality) like a Dolby or DTS to create a new codec that is better than CD quality yet is a small enough file size that it can easily be downloaded. I know I would pay more for it, as would millions of other consumers – certainly more than $1.29 especially if they also marketed low-cost download options. As a leader in high-end computer technology and a truly superior operating system to anything Microsoft sells including Vista (yes, I bought a computer with Vista already for the office for site testing purposes), I expect Apple to work on a music file format that has both stereo and surround sound tracks ripped onto it. This way, when I’m on an airplane or at the gym, I can listen to high-res stereo with audio quality that rivals that of DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, HD DVD or Blu-ray disc. I expect Apple to find a way to fold down a surround sound mix and someday create an iPod with a digital audio output that when plugged into my theater, could unfold and play music back in 5.1 or 7.1 surround. Would this fantasy iPod be able to fit 10,000 songs on it? Of course not, as with larger files comes the ability to store less music on the unit, but to many users, myself included, I prefer quality to quantity. That to me, as an Apple loyalist, a music fan and technology publisher is what I expect from Apple. In fact, in the spirit of selling $1,799 monitors – how about an Apple Music server that has open bays and the ability to endlessly daisy chain units. From there, Apple should be selling music by the genre on hard drives. Can you imagine having the top 500 classic rock albums on a plug and play hard drive that slides right into a bay? You might pay $750 for the drive but would get not just the cream of the crop of singles, special music not found elsewhere, but you would have the ability to download another few hundred songs from iTunes as a credit that comes with the drive. Then you could repeat the same phenomenon with classical, jazz, country, new age and so on. Like the CD in the early 1980s, people would have a reason to buy their music over again. Unlike the 1980s and today – the audio would be in surround sound and high-resolution – not wanna-be-CD or half-resolution DVD that Apple is selling consumers now and suggesting it is real high-resolution audio and video.
     
  2. killmoms macrumors 68040

    killmoms

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    #2
    ROFL. I love how this guy thinks that "many users" would appreciate a lossless offering from Apple. The percentage of people who want lossless, high-res audio downloads is a fraction of a fraction of a percent.

    Earth to idiot: most people can't tell the difference between 128kbps AAC and a CD, much less 256. Yeah, maybe you can, and if you can, you can still go out and buy DVD Audio or SACD discs. :rolleyes:

    Such nonsense.
     
  3. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    You miss the point, killmoms. The iTunes downloads of EMI selection has to do with their content of classic rock where many Gen-Xrs are willing to pay premium of $1.29 per track.

    The selection of DVD Audio and SACD of these albums do not exist. There is a demand for people who want high-res audio and they are being fooled by Apple and EMI.
     
  4. TheAnswer macrumors 68030

    TheAnswer

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    #4
    Sounds like your standard industry hack. Instead of worrying about satisfying the consumer, it seems he more preoccupied with driving sales of high-end audio equipment. I guess that's understandable, since his ad revenue comes from that industry.
     
  5. TheAnswer macrumors 68030

    TheAnswer

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    #5
    The people who are audio-saavy enough to tell the difference between 256kbps and CD or higher quality are not being fooled by Apple and EMI, they know full well that the Apple/EMI offerings are not "up to snuff".

    It sounds like the author of the article is more afraid that the Apple/EMI will please people looking for "better quality" but who are not necessarily hard-core audiophiles...he's afraid of a segmentation of the market that will effect the very manufacturers that keep him in business.
     
  6. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #6
    Sales of high-end audio has a purpose to the madness. It is to reproduce sound as it was recorded and most people now miss that very point. Particularly the Gen-Y'ers who balk at this, but would easily spend $50 and up for the latest video games.

    Apple & EMI could have produced a better standard and I would caution anyone downloading the EMI selection to wait and see if there is a remastered album in DVD-Audio, SACD or even CD available first.
     
  7. killmoms macrumors 68040

    killmoms

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    #7
    There's no demand for it. Very little, anyway. VERY little. And Apple and EMI were never marketing this as some sort of brilliant new release for this stuff—it's just DRM free and higher quality than what's on the iTS now. So, I mean, I guess if you want to bitch about some imaginary thing they never said, then go ahead. :rolleyes:
     
  8. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Killmoms - again you miss the point. It is being marketed as higher quality and there are significant people who will pay for it. It is very misleading to state that it is by Apple and EMI.

    Ok genius. People will spend thousands for high-end video and high-end audio goes right with it. Those who make money in high-end audio end up selling it with high-end video. Just because you or your buddies haven't listened to it doesn't mean there is no demand for high-end audio.
     
  9. decksnap macrumors 68040

    decksnap

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    #9
    Easy there gary. Take it down a notch.

    This market you talk about is an extreme niche. Apple caters to the masses. They are selling higher quality music, but yes, there's a bit of marketing speak going on there.
     
  10. TheAnswer macrumors 68030

    TheAnswer

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    #10
    Higher would be the key word there. Not highest or best quality, just higher.

    And killmoms is right, the audiophiles that can discern quality above 256kbps are a very limited market, it's a market that Apple has not yet chosen to address...and they're not being mislead by Apple's offerings. As I said above, most of them know this isn't their cup of tea.

    What always seems to get me about high-end audiophiles (and videophiles/cinephiles) is this urge to recreate the experience in the recording room. Most of them spend tons on equipment, but you go over to their places and you can hear the shower turn on next to their home theater or can hear the washing machine...most of them completely forget that sound/echo proofing aspects of the listening or viewing experience.

    What's the point of having a great setup if you can hear the film projector running over the dialogue? Or if you can hear you neighbors lawnmower over your Mozart sonata?
     
  11. Diatribe macrumors 601

    Diatribe

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    #11
    I for one will withold judgement until I have heard these files. I am not too sure yet that they are worlds from a Lossless rip from a CD.

    If there are really audible differences I will continue to buy CDs and rip them but until I have heard the quality I won't say anything.
     
  12. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #12
    Just more whine, whine, whine, music can only be truly be enjoyed on an $8,000 setup and anything less is like casting pearls before swine elitist bulls**t...

    Funny, I thought legal music downloads was one of the most exciting things to happen to the music business.

    Why, again, did DVD-A and SACD fail?

    Hyperbole much? The iPod is actually impeding musicians and their ability to create songs?

    Like 8-track and cassette tapes?


    Yeah, 'cause this is what everyone wants. Especially since you can already use just about any computer to do exactly the same thing.



    As TheAnswer said, all this is just a self-serving rant. The guy just wants Apple to make products that fit better onto his consumers demographic so he can profit from it.

    And just because your buddies listen to it doesn't mean there is a high demand for it.


    Lethal
     
  13. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #13
    There will be those that sound-proof their listen/viewing rooms if possible, but many times those background sounds aren't there in the evening hours when you're enjoying your media/content.

    If one's source of content are downloads to their video iPod, there isn't any amount of convincing them with factual evidence and actual listening experience that high-res audio and video are actually worth spending money on.
     
  14. DeaconGraves macrumors 65816

    DeaconGraves

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    #14
    There's alwasy demand for high-end anything, but that's not who Apple is targeting. Look at the primary methods of playing back audio from Itunes. Its mainly ipods and built-in computer speakers (external if you you're using Windows PCs I guess). Hardly what you would call high-quality output devices.

    Apple for the most part is a consumer electronics company. They do have their professional line, but neither itunes nor the ipod are considered part of it. Apple could offer lossless music from their store but the cost to produce (and subsequently, the price they would have to sell it at) doesn't make it worth it yet. DRM-Free music is really just phase 2 of a very, very young industry.
     
  15. Diatribe macrumors 601

    Diatribe

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    #15
    1. How many people have the money to be able to hear differences at 256kbps?
    2. How many people have the money to be able to hear differences at CD level?
    3. How many people have the money to be able to hear differences at SACD level?

    I can hear differences with some B&W 800 speakers and a Mark Levinson amp too, but seriously how many people have the money to afford sth. like this?
     
  16. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #16
    Of course there is no way to convince them w/factual evidence because there is no factual evidence that hi-end a/v components are worth the money. It's opinion, not fact. You can talk specs 'til you are blue in the face, but when the rubber meets the road it's all subjective.


    Lethal
     
  17. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #17
    Many of the classic rock albums that are available on CD today were mastered in the late 1980s that were done with a poor analog-to-digital transfer. It couldn't take advantage of the dynamic range of CD players using the Red-Book CD format of 16-bit, 24 KHz sampling. CDs were a replacement for audio cassette tape, they were not to replace vinyl.

    It is now affordable today for companies like EMI to do this re-mastering correctly. Listen to the CD of the Beatles remix 'Love' album and one can distinguish the difference in between Apple's Lossless encoding and the CD on a half-decent car stereo system. You don't need Mark Levinson processors/amps and $50K pair of speakers.
     
  18. killmoms macrumors 68040

    killmoms

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    #18
    That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Do you know why? Apple Lossless is LOSSLESS. An Apple lossless file is, when uncompressed, bit for bit the EXACT SAME as the original CD. So your claim is ********—they're exactly the same. It's all in your head.

    Now, if you're talking about AAC, a LOSSY codec made by Dolby, then yes you might be able to hear a difference at a low bitrate.

    And, as I said before: it's not being marketed as "higher quality than everything else ever made." It's being marketed as higher quality than what is currently on the iTunes Store (and, incidentally, higher quality than the default lossy ripping settings of iTunes).
     
  19. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #19
    The article mentions nothing about spending tens-of-thousands on audio equipment. There are LOTS of folks who have decent home theater systems (high-def TV sales have boosted this purchase) that can take advantage of better recordings.
     
  20. LethalWolfe macrumors G3

    LethalWolfe

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    #20
    Neither did I and I was quoting you, not the article. All I was stating is that there is no way to "prove" that high-end anything is worth the extra money because it's all subjective.


    Lethal
     
  21. DeaconGraves macrumors 65816

    DeaconGraves

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    #21
    Better recordings? Sure. But do they have the hard drive space?

    An Apple Lossless file is significantly larger than a typical iTunes store file. I'm sure the quality that you want is even larger. Ipods are still considered the primary place where downloaded music is to be played, and they don't get larger than 80GB.

    Even if you're planning to play it on a home theater system you'll still need to purchase additional equpiment. Extra hard drive space, airport or an apple TV, high quality optical cable (or HDMI). Maybe not the ten-of-thosands but still more than the average customer is willing to pay (after having already thrown down a lot on the home theatre system) to play higher quality music with an output that can actually discern the difference.

    Anyone who wants this is already buying SACD or DVD-A and ripping the tracks themselves. If you can't find the music you want on those formats, blame the labels, not Apple.
     
  22. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #22
    Apple's lossless encoding is actually very good for portable music. However, if the original CD was excellent (and there are very few of these, but the 'Love' album is an excellent example), then there will be noticeable differences between the original CD and Apple's Lossless encoding.

    This isn't all about software alone(ie. file compression), but for playback of digitized music its also about how well the digital-to-analog conversion is done. This is the point that many people have missed. They spend thousands on a home theater system only to drag it down with something crappy like Apple TV with iTunes.
     
  23. killmoms macrumors 68040

    killmoms

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    #23
    If you play it through a different DAC, sure. But that's not a failing of the CODEC, which is the picture you're trying to paint. Rip a CD to Apple Lossless, re-burn it to Audio CD, and play it in the same CD player, and you'll not hear a whit of difference. What's more, if you play an Apple Lossless file through the Apple TV's digital output over HDMI or S/PDIF into your receiver, you won't be able to tell the difference because it's going straight digital (the same as a CD's output) into your receiver's DAC.
     
  24. MacCurry thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #24
    I agree and thats why its upsetting that EMI is working with Apple and not announcing the albums to also be sold in SACD and DVD-A formats.

    "The problem is the fact that in their press release dated April 2, 2007 Apple states that their 256 kbps AAC encoding results in audio quality that is “indistinguishable from the original recording.”
     
  25. DeaconGraves macrumors 65816

    DeaconGraves

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    #25
    This is a very valid point, but its still a bit of an apples to oranges comparisons.

    When people buy a home theatre system, they are usually try to recreate an experience they've had in the theatre. Digital surround, widescreen movies, clean picture transfer. With the advent of blu-ray and HD-DVD, they are actually getting a better quality experience.

    But what's that similar standard in audio? Not a concert, as that's a totally different experience from a studio recording. The recording booth? Yes, but how much of the general population has experienced that? Not enough to market the product to. People don't feel they need it.

    I agree on the Apple TV. Until they at least offer HD video, I'm not touching it. I'll only ocassionally download a tv show that I missed and the TiVo didn't record, and I'm just watching it on my monitor (in this case, screw the experience, I just want to make sure I didn't miss a big twist in Lost).

    But for audio? I just stream my downloads over my airport (which is connected to my theatre system via optical). For what I need, it sounds great. I probably do not have the trained ears that you do, but I would say that you are definitely above average when it comes to that.
     

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